Karz Retrospective

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Of course, everyone wishes Himesh Reshammiya the best of luck with Karzzzz released this Friday. The movie has a great cast with Urmila Matondkar, Shweta Kumar and Dino Morea and the promos look good. However, it’s going to have to be a speed racer if it’s going to overtake the original Karz in the popularity stakes.

Karz (1980) starred Rishi Kapoor and the gorgeous Tina Munim. Rishi was of course the son of the great Raj Kapoor. He’s the father of the soon-to-be-great Ranbir Kapoor and is the uncle of Kareena and Karishma. Rishi has made over 200 movies and is still knocking them out today with Dilli 6 and Luck by Chance coming up soon on the horizon.

Tina Munim had the great good fortune of marrying Anil Ambani who recently joined up with Steven Spielberg to create a new global film company based on Reliance money and Spielberg expertise. Her best movies were in the late 70s and early 80s. Around about the time of Karz, she was also in Lootbar and Rocky with Sanjay Dutt.

Karz was made by the great Subhash Ghai who admitted that it was loosely based on the American movie The Reincarnation of Peter Proud. Last year’s Om Shanti Om was in turn very loosely based on Karz.

Subhash Ghai’s direction is very fluid with lots of movement, and this is very obvious in his work on Karz which includes lots of deep panning shots and tracking shots of the characters as they move around the buildings. There’s nothing static in his work at all. The final car chase is particularly evocative and just a little bit scary – as is the scene when the hero finally begins to awaken to the fact of his reincarnation and his recognition of his mother and sister. Subhash is still very active in the Bollywood movie scene today of course. The director who has brought us such movies as Aitraaz, 36 China Town, Hero and Meri Jung will be with us next with his direction of the much anticipated Yuvraaj.

The plot is basically very straightforward – Bad Guy (Premnath) covets the empire of his business rival but the business rival’s Son thwarts him. The Bad Guy, who is mute by the way and communicates by tapping a glass on the table, arranges for a sexy Bargirl to seduce the Son, marry him and then murder him. Premnath is at his eye-rolling best in this movie as the Bad Guy (Sir Judah) and the idea of him being mute and communicating through a servant who is the only person who can understand him is one of those little bits of inspiration – an ornamentation if you like – that makes Subhash Ghai’s direction always so interesting.

Meanwhile, Bargirl is played by Simi Garewal – the classic femme fatale character in this movie. When she seduces our hero, she is in effect seducing the whole of man-kind – no one male could resist her sultry looks. Simi grew up in England and her first movie was in fact Tarzan Goes to India with Feroz Khan. Later, she was a favourite of director Satyajit Rai and more recently of course she has been the anchor on TV for many years of the talk show “Rendezvous with Simi Garewal”.

However, things backfire for the Bad Guy when Bargirl takes over the whole estate of the business rival after murdering our hero in his first incarnation (called Ravi Verma in his character – Raj Kiran being the real-life actor), banishing the wife and daughter from the estate and thwarting Bad Guy.

Twenty-five years later, Son has been reincarnated and is now a grown man. He travels to the district where Bargirl still runs the estate (now, I suppose BarMiddleAgedWoman – although still almost unbearably desirable). His previous life starts returning to him in flashbacks. He meets his old mother and sister from his previous life and realizes what he must do. There’s a very touching scene here which somehow succeeds in not descending into the emetic-level of melodrama that Bollywood movies can sometimes sink too. Meanwhile, he’s also met the love of his life – we’ll call her StunninglyBeautifulGirl – Tina Munim of course. Tina was always the girl your mother would want you to marry – even though you would probably prefer Simi Garewal yourself – but still, we can’t have everything we want.

Son and StunninglyBeautifulGirl orchestrate a showdown with BarMiddleAgedWoman. There’s a simply stunning final twenty minutes including Cars – and yes also reinCARnation of course – but I’ll leave you to watch the movie to realize for yourself just how good Subhash Ghai was at creating tension. The slow build up of the chase, the confrontation, the escape, the rescue, the accident – it’s all carefully plotted and edited and works like a dream.

Music plays a very important role in the movie. The hit song ‘Ek Hasina Thi…’ is first played as a haunting melody by Ravi Verma (Son) just before he is murdered by Bargirl (Kamini – Simi Garewal), and the song is heard again later when Rishi Kapoor returns as Son reincarnated – it’s what triggers off the flow of memories from his previous life that helps him fit all the pieces together and recognize his mother and sister.

Pran has a small but significant role in the movie as the uncle of Tina Munim. He’s a small petty crook – but good-natured. He is in fact the only witness of the original murder – well, the only witness other than a statue of the goddess Kali which acts as another leitmotif and stir to memory throughout the film. Pran is able to provide Rishi with information about the murder and the real character of Kamini which helps our hero to thwart her plans. Pran, of course, was a mainstay of Hindi cinema for over fifty years, playing a wide range of different character parts and winning truckloads of awards along the way.

The movie is above all renowned for its music which won a Filmfare Award – and moved Bollywood movie music perhaps into a new era – the 1980s. Above all, however, it’s the performances of Rishi and Tina that stand out – their on screen chemistry was absolutely electric. I certainly hope Anil wasn’t watching.

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